Sugar and Fat
Rowden January 2015
Sugar makes you fat. We should all live by one simple rule: Don’t eat Sugar. Basically our bodies are not designed to consume sugar and unless we cut it out, any dieting or exercising we do is ultimately doomed to failure.
In the early 1800’s nobody ate sugar for two reasons; it was ridiculously expensive and not produced commercially, nor were there many overweight people around. By the early 1900’s sugar based foods were starting to appear. By the 1960’s sugar was everywhere, in drinks, fruit juice, candies and chocolate and breakfast cereals
Let’s put this in practical terms. In the early 1800s the average person ate about 1.3 teaspoons of sugar a day. Now the average person eats somewhere between 35 and 45 teaspoons of sugar a day. But the irony is that the modern adult probably thinks they barely eat any at all. Our food supply has been so completely and totally polluted with sugar, that it is almost impossible to buy packaged food that doesn’t contain it. What are the results? The number of overweight people has doubled in 5 decades and heart disease has become endemic.
So what did people do? They stopped eating fat, dieted and exercised more. Food manufacturers made low-fat everything. So people ate more cereals, drank more juice and soft drinks, because none of these contained fat. But obesity levels did not decrease, they continue to increase as does type 2 diabetes, heart and fatty liver problems and other weight-related diseases that simply did not exist decades ago. What are we doing wrong? The figures don’t lie, more people are aware of dietary needs, exercise more and still as a nation we’re getting fatter at an alarming rate.
The human body is designed for balance like any other animal, we won’t get fat unless our appetite control system is unbalanced or has failed in some way. When we eat fat, protein or carbohydrates hormones are released by our gut telling us to stop eating when we’ve had enough. Except in the case of one carbohydrate, fructose, which is one-half of sugar, the other half being glucose. Only the fructose half is dangerous. Our bodies do not detect fructose as food and our livers convert it immediately to fat. This fructose will be circulating in your bloodstream as fat almost instantaneously. In the early 1800’s the average Briton’s annual sugar consumption was around 12lbs (6lbs of fructose) yet over the subsequent century this increased to a staggering 90lbs per person per year. By the end of the 1960’s fructose intake had accelerated to 60lbs per year, the main culprits being breakfast cereals, fruit juices and soft drinks.
Over the last decade researchers have found that too much fat in the arteries messes up the appetite control system for foods which trigger it. Also too much fat means that hormones like insulin, CCK and leptin (which tells us when to stop eating) no longer work as well as they should. Not only is fructose undetected and turned to fat but it increases the amount of other food we eat.
Persistently high blood sugar is the most immediate effect that fructose consumption has on our bodies. Eventually that transmutes into obesity and type 2 diabetes but there is even worse news. Recent studies have proved conclusively that there are strong links between type 2 diabetes and dementia but also that long-term sugar consumption impairs ‘cognitive function’. The higher the blood sugar level, the lower the scores on testing. Researchers noted too that a 1% rise in blood sugar takes you 2 whole years closer to dementia.
Fructose affects a number of different systems in our bodies in many complex ways, mineral depletion for one. It interferes with the body’s copper metabolism to such an extent that collagen and elastin cannot form properly during growth. Fructose also inhibits the absorption of iodine which can lead to problems with the thyroid gland. It elevates blood triglyceride providing a perfect environment for cancer growth, causes sustained increases in LDL cholesterol levels, leading to increased risk of heart disease and stroke.
Fructose produces a spike in cortisol in our bloodstream. This depresses non-essential functions in the body one of which is the immune system, making us more prone to contracting disease. Fructose ingestion also elevates uric acid levels which lead directly to increased blood pressure, gout and kidney disease and significantly reduces nitric oxide production by the cells which line the interior surfaces of blood vessels.
By consuming fructose we increase the amount of fat that accumulates around the primary organs and in particular the liver. This central adiposity leads to fatty liver disease and ultimately to cirrhosis of the liver and liver failure.
In 1945 only a quarter of the sugar we ate was already in food when we bought it. Now more than three quarters is already in food. Fructose has crept into almost every food we buy often under the pretext of making it healthier. We avoid fat and eat more fruit, even dried fruit (70% sugar), fruit juice (same sugar as soft drinks), low-fat products (need to be high-sugar to compensate for lack of fat/flavour), we avoid milk and switch to zero-fat alternatives (soft drinks and juices), we avoid high-fat spreads and switch to ‘healthy’ honey and conserves, we avoid high-fat breakfasts and eat ‘healthy cereals (a quarter to half sugar). The miracle is not that we are all becoming overweight or sick but that we are not all dead in the face of incessant fructose doping.
Why don’t we all just stop eating anything containing fructose? Nowadays it is not easy to tell how much fructose there is in most foods but in addition fructose is highly addictive. Whether we understand it or not we are addicted to a substance that is killing us in multiple ways.
Fat will definitely make you fat if you have fructose in your diet. Fructose encourages the liver to produce fat, stimulates our hunger and damages our appetite controls. Once you eliminate fructose there is no need to concern yourself with the fat content of foods. In fact you’ll be better off eating full-fat rather than low fat foods.
But remember 50% of sugar is fructose. The more sugar you eat the fatter you will get. If you stop eating sugar you will stop gaining weight. Even better you will stop gaining weight dramatically. You will be able to eat as much as you want of anything you want, just so long as it doesn’t contain sugar. And you won’t feel deprived in any way.
Foods to avoid and alternatives (where possible)
• Confectionary and dried fruit: avoid all candy, sweets, chocolate, dried fruit and sweet biscuits. Even almost all cereal bars have a high sugar content because of the dried fruit. The Go Ahead range has around 40 to 41% sugar. Cracker biscuits, rice cakes and oat cakes are generally ok but beware of the flavoured ones, which can contain substantial sugar.
• Sweetened drinks are the single most effective way of getting fructose into the bloodstream. Fruit juice for example is high in fructose, you can easily drink the equivalent of four apples (a massive intake of fructose) whereas you wouldn’t usually eat four apples at one time and if you did the fructose intake would be mitigated by the fibre in the fruit. Even soya milk contains high sugar levels. The only single health drink on the market with no sugar is Lucozade Original which contains pure glucose and this is acceptable.
• Almost all breakfast cereals now contain significant amounts of sugar. Anything more than a sugar content of 3 grams per 100 is out of bounds. Usually only porridge oats and some brands of Weetabix fall within these limits.
• Many condiments are high in sugar. Barbecue, tomato sauce and mayonnaise (except whole-egg full-fat brands) should all be binned. Soy sauce, mustard, cider vinegar and olive oil are all okay.
• Most sweet yoghurts and the fruit ones are high in sugar. The safer ones are sour not sweet: the Onken natural range, Total Greek range and the yoghurt drinks such as Actimel, Benecol and Flora pro-Active.
• Almost all breads contain sugar, white breads are worst and brown or whole-meal the best. If you want white bread without sugar then sourdough is the alternative.
• Avoid all jams, honeys and sweet spreads. Marmite, meat pastes, organic peanut butter and cream cheeses are okay.
• Limit yourself to two pieces of fruit per day (but as many vegetables as you fancy). The fibre in the fruit will limit the damage done by the fructose. Bear in mind no dried fruit or fruit juices.
• Once you are cured of your sugar addiction you may use dextrose or glucose syrup as sweeteners.